Do you wanna build a Snowman?
The Snowman is directed by Tomas Alfredson and is based on the novel of the same name by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo. The film stars Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, and J.K. Simmons.
What the hell is Michael Fassbender doing? The man who I thought made quite a name for himself as Magneto in the most recent X-Men films and as Steve Jobs in 2015 has, for whatever reason, been finding himself lately in crap project after crap project. Say what one will about Alien: Covenant (Fassbender actually being the best part of that movie), but I see how no one in their right mind can give Fassbender a pass for Assassin's Creed, especially for his decision to be a producer for that film. I suppose any actor/actress who has been in business long enough will inevitably finds themselves in a crap project, because not all films can be good, and an actor can't star in a masterpiece every day of the week.
Masterpiece, however, is a word that does not belong anywhere near the likes of The Snowman, unless we're talking about a masterpiece of wildly incompetent film-making, which is what The Snowman is a near perfect example of. It's really quite astounding to watch the movie and see how much of it fails to amount to anything. Never mind the shocking fact that freaking Martin Scorsese served as executive producer (he was actually slated to be direct early on). The most alarming bit of information is that director Tomas Alfredson came out and stated in an interview that 10% to 15% of the script wasn't even filmed, leading to several narrative issues and editing problems. So that is to say the final product of The Snowman is an incomplete film, and the 85% of movie that we do get is a horrific, snow-covered mess from start to finish.
My understanding is that the film deviates quite a lot from the novel, but since I haven't read the novel, I can't give a valid assessment on that criticism. What we get in the movie plot-wise is this: Norwegian detective Harry Hole......
Okay, stop. Stop the review for a second. We just cannot let the fact that our main character's name is Harry Hole slip by without some proper discussion. I believe author Jo Nesbo meant to have the last name pronounced, "Hol-eh", but in the movie, it is for sure pronounced the way you likely read it just now. It's not only that Hole is perhaps the worst last name to be had for someone whose first name is Harry; it's also that the fact that such a name makes it that much harder for us to take our main character seriously. Okay, now that that little issue is out of the way, let's resume.
Norwegian detective Harry Hole receives a letter in the mail containing a mysterious message and ending with the drawing of a snowman. Harry is paired with new recruit Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), and the two are assigned to a case involving a missing woman named Britte Becker (Genevieve O'Reilly), who had vanished from her home one snowy night. The police receive another report of a missing woman, and after investigating each crime scene (finding the decapitated head of one of the two women), Harry and Katrine discover that a snowman is present at each woman's house. Connecting the letter and the disappearances, Harry realizes that a killer is on the loose, and the killer is using a snowman as his calling card. Katrine deduces that the killer strikes only on days when it is snowing, and that her and Harry must move quickly in order to find the killer and prevent any more disappearances.
That is all I am going to give in terms of a plot synopsis. There is much more to tell, but everything else is so convoluted that it isn't worth the effort to try and put all the pieces into their proper place. Barely anything about the story makes a lick of sense, which I mostly blame on the fact that we only have about 85% of a movie to work with here. Some of the characters' purpose in this movie is completely unclear, and if that weren't enough, The Snowman is also dreadfully boring, with not one single scene containing even one iota of excitement. So is that all to say that there isn't anything good in The Snowman?
- Occasionally, cinematographer Dion Beebe is able to dish out a pretty gorgeous looking shot, such as shots of the snowy Norwegian landscape in the film's opening moments. There are also some nifty looking shots of statues as the opening credits fade in and out on screen. But aside from that, The Snowman has nothing else deserving of praise.
- We'd be here all day if I were to discuss every single low point of The Snowman, so I'm just going to pick out the worst of the bunch. Let's start with Michael Fassbender's performance. Holy crap, I do not remember the last time I felt so appalled over watching a performance from an actor like Fassbender. Fassbender is so depressing to watch in this movie, with lifeless facial expressions while speaking his lines in such a nonchalant manner that I can only assume Fassbender had no passion for this project and was in a "let's get this over with" state of mind throughout shooting.
We learn that when Harry Hole isn't doing detective work, he's drowning himself in alcohol, supposedly because he has recently gone through a divorce, and his wife Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg) has recently remarried. The movie does not ever make it completely clear that the divorce is the reason why Harry is a drunk, but I don't see what else the reason could be. Instead of successfully acting as a man suffering from depression, Fassbender resembles something of an empty shell, with all the enthusiasm of a sloth. It's so hard to watch Fassbender next to Rebecca Ferguson, because Ferguson is at least trying to make something out of her performance.
- The slowness. The slowness, the slowness, the slowness. Fassbender's performance is one fault. The writing is another, and we'll get more into that in a little bit. But the slowness? My dear readers, you don't know the half of it. The Snowman goes along at such a sluggish pace, it's like watching a snowman melt in slow motion. Save for an opening scene flashback, it takes a good half hour-forty minutes for anything of substance to happen. Even when the investigation kicks into high-gear, the movie is all over the place with its characters and plot details, with all the intensity of a snowball fight at a retirement home.
- And finally, let us discuss the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad low point that is the writing. To start with, the movie flat out shows you who the killer is in the opening scene, so suspense and tension are immediately done away with, and for the rest of the movie, you will keep telling yourself, "I know the killer has this background." Knowing half of the mystery before it even begins is inexplicable, but again, I haven't read the novel, so I can't say if knowing a part of the killer's identity right away is included as something that was taken from the novel. If it was, then that's bad writing on the part of Jo Nesbo than the film's three screenwriters.
But anyway, the next bit of the writing to talk about are the two characters portrayed by Val Kilmer and J.K. Simmons. Kilmer is supposed to portray an investigator who worked on a similar snowman case in the past, but any explanation of the character's importance to the plot is borderline nonexistent. If there is a clear explanation located in the film, I was too bored to notice it. What doesn't help matters is how awful Val Kilmer looks. Now, I've read sources that say Kilmer has been dealing with some form of cancer recently, and I wish no ill will on him personally if that's true. My gosh though, Kilmer looks as if he's about to pass out every time he is on screen, and you don't have to look too hard to notice that the synchronization between Kilmer's dialogue and his lip movements is way off. That 85% is going strong, I'll tell you what.
In regards to J.K. Simmons' character, you'll be severely disappointed if you think you'll get a great performance out of him. His character has barely anything to do, and his purpose to the plot is...um, I really couldn't tell you. Like Kilmer's character, Simmons' character is hardly fleshed out, ending up as nothing but just a wasted opportunity for Simmons.
And I believe that's about it with the writing. There's not much of anything to say about how the plot makes no god damn sense, the editing twisting and bending the plot into a tangled jumble. You'll have better luck trying to build a snowman during the summer than you will trying to make sense of this slushy, inept film. When you watch a film like The Snowman that is oh so terrible on oh so many levels, you can only hope that all of it amounts to a hilariously bad product that you can make a fun drinking game out of. Hilariously bad is something that The Snowman is not, for any unintentional laughs to be had are washed out by the film's slowness.
What then, exactly, is The Snowman? Is it merely a bad, boring thriller that squanders its talented cast and some decent potential? Not quite. The Snowman is a little bit more than what I just described: The Snowman is, on top of everything I just said, an incomplete film, one that desperately needs finishing touches to fill in its gaping holes and try to make at least some sense of everything. The "final product" that director Tomas Alfredson went with is nothing short of unacceptable, constructed in such a lazy, clueless fashion that it's almost fascinating to watch. Well, it would be fascinating, if the movie wasn't such a dreadful bore from beginning to end. In conclusion, there was a lot of garbage released during 2017, and The Snowman is an undeniable stinker that needs to be ranked right at the very top of any and all "worst of the year" lists.
Recommend? *Laughs hysterically at such a ridiculous question*
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: